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July 2, 2015

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Jonathan Duhamel goes from unknown to star with World Series of Poker victory

Duhamel became the first Canadian and first French-speaking winner in the history of the Main Event

Image

Steve Marcus

Jonathan Duhamel of Canada celebrates after beating John Racener in the finals of the World Series of Poker Main Event at the Rio on Monday, November 8, 2010. Duhamel won the championship bracelet and $8.9 million in prize money.

World Series of Poker - Monday

Jonathan Duhamel of Canada celebrates after beating John Racener in the finals of the World Series of Poker Main Event at the Rio on Monday, November 8, 2010. Duhamel won the championship bracelet and $8.9 million in prize money. Launch slideshow »

Main Event Payouts

  • Jonathan Duhamel (1st) — $8,944,138
  • John Racener (2nd) — $5,545,855
  • Joseph Cheong (3rd) — $4,129,979
  • Filippo Candio (4th) — $3,092,497
  • Michael Mizrachi (5th) — $2,332,960
  • John Dolan (6th) — $1,772,939
  • Jason Senti (7th) — $1,356,708
  • Matthew Jarvis (8th) — $1,045,738
  • Soi Nguyen (9th) — $811,823

Jonathan Duhamel wrapped a Canadian flag around his shoulders and yelled in a manner he usually only unleashes when his beloved Montreal Canadiens score a goal at the Bell Centre in his hometown.

The 22-year-old Duhamel won the World Series of Poker Main Event bracelet and the $8,944,138 first-place prize Monday night at the Rio, beating 24-year-old John Racener in a 43-hand heads-up session.

“It is life-changing,” Duhamel said. “I don’t know how much, but it’s a dream for me.”

At the beginning of this summer’s World Series of Poker, Duhamel had career tournament earnings of about $40,000. He made more than 220 times that Monday night.

Duhamel was primarily an online cash game professional before this summer. He brought enough money to buy into 17 events at the World Series of Poker and hoped for the best in his first prolonged foray into tournament poker.

“I was just coming to the Series looking to make a big score,” Duhamel said. “But I didn’t expect anything like this.”

A renowned group of poker pros watched on as Duhamel became the first Canadian and first French-speaking champion in the 41-year history of the event. Eleven-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth and Poker Hall of Fame inductee Dan Harrington were just two of the names in the crowd.

Last year’s champion, Joe Cada, presented Duhamel with his golden bracelet moments before his friends and family swallowed him up into a sea of celebration.

“I love playing poker so much,” Duhamel said.

It’s safe to say Ace of spades, Jack of hearts will forever be a no-limit hold’em starting hand with a special place in Duhamel’s heart. Those were the cards he won the tournament with.

He pushed all-in before the flop. At more than a 180 million chip disadvantage, Racener was practically forced to call with King of diamonds, eight of diamonds.

The five community cards the dealer spread out did nothing to help Racener’s hand improve. Racener, from Port Richey, Fla., earned $5.5 million for his second place finish.

“I couldn’t get anything going,” Racener said.

The combination of a 6-to-1 chip disadvantage and dealing with Duhamel’s aggression proved too much for Racener. He started the match with 30 million chips and despite doubling up once with pocket Queens, Duhamel never let him eclipse the 40 million mark.

Click to enlarge photo

John Racener, left, plays against Jonathan Duhamel during the World Series of Poker Main Event at the Rio on Monday, November 8, 2010.

“I didn’t pick up any hands except those Queens,” Racener said. “The next biggest hand I had was Ace-Deuce.”

Racener was understandably somber after the defeat. The poker pro, who had $1.5 million in career earnings before the World Series of Poker, said from the beginning of the final table that first place was his only goal.

Racener, already a regular on the tournament poker circuit, plans to only be around more now after his Main Event run. Playing more poker was also the first thing Duhamel mentioned when asked how he would spend his fortune.

“I’m going to try to be the best ambassador I can be for poker,” Duhamel said. “I’m going to try to put poker where it deserves to be.”

Duhamel did mention one other item he plans to purchase with his winnings — Montreal Canadiens season tickets.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or case.keefer@lasvegassun.com. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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